Yesterday I gave an interview to the Sydney Morning Herald for a story published today: 'Stopping climate change talks "could hurt" G20' (p. 8 in the paper version). Here I want to offer a little more background to the three direct quotes that made it to the final story:
- Climate change will be discussed at the Summit – the Prime Minister himself has accepted that this will happen.
- It is more likely than not that climate change will make it to the communiqué in some form. As I have noted previously, it has been referenced in every G20 communiqué to date. On that basis alone, hysteresis should get it over the line. The fact that the G20 Climate Finance Study Group has been meeting under Australia's presidency also suggests it will have be to referenced by leaders, either in the communiqué or in the annex.
- Whether climate change is or is not on the communiqué is less interesting than how meaningful a discussion leaders are able to have on the issue. As Susan Harris Rimmer indicates in the SMH article, the G20 is not the appropriate space for negotiating the details of a global climate agreement or for setting global targets – that is the purview of the UN (again, see my earlier piece).
- This means we should approach the Brisbane Summit with realistic expectations. Given the proximity of the G20 summit to the UNFCCC COP 20 meeting in Peru in December, and the all-important COP 21 in Paris next year, it would be valuable if leaders were able to clarify their points of difference and commonality in Brisbane. That's something which does not lend itself to a communiqué, but that does not mean it is unimportant. If the communiqué were ultimately to include a line such as 'we discussed progress toward ensuring that COP 21 was a success,' that would still be a useful outcome.
The key point is that climate change is an important issue, and the G20 should address it in so far as it can add value in a way other international institutions can't. As the G20 is a leaders' forum, the value is that it can provide a space for G20 leaders to talk about climate change in an informal and frank manner. If that doesn't happen, then it would be a missed opportunity, but all the signs suggest it will happen. The main game in climate change is the Paris Negotiations in 2015, and any nudge the G20 can give to the build-up for COP-21 is to be welcomed.